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A mixed-use complex nearing completion is among ongoing plan to revitalize Upper Port area | Newsday


A yearslong effort to transform a rundown section of Port Jefferson is starting to reshape the skyline around the village's train station.

An apartment-retail complex two blocks away from the Long Island Rail Road stop is nearing completion, and another is set to start construction later this year at the intersection of Main Street and North Country Road.

Those projects, and others either completed or on the drawing board, are part of a plan finalized in 2015 to revitalize the Upper Port neighborhood, which had decayed in recent decades even as Port Jefferson's downtown waterfront thrived with chic shops and restaurants.

"Nothing happens overnight, especially in government and development," Mayor Margot J. Garant told Newsday. "As you come to the village from Port Jeff Station, coming north, that’s really going to change the gateway coming into the village."

Rochester-based Conifer Realty later this year plans to open Port Jefferson Crossing, a three-story complex near the train station that would include first-floor shops and about 40 upper-floor apartments, Garant said. Conifer has proposed a second "mirror image" complex that would be built nearby, she said.

Construction of One North, another three-story apartment-retail complex, should start later this year on the former site of the Lobster House seafood restaurant, which relocated downtown, Garant said.

One North is a project of the Port Jefferson-based Gitto Group, which previously built the Hills apartment complex on Texaco Avenue in Upper Port.

But the redevelopment has some skeptics and detractors who have raised concerns about increased population density.

Virginia Capon, an environmental attorney and former village trustee, said while she supports some redevelopment, she and other residents are concerned about the "intensity" of new housing. She added that One North's flat roof and glass-heavy design don't fit with Port Jefferson's traditional seaport architectural character.

"That is not what we want to evoke in terms of a small-town, maritime village," Capon said. "I don’t think that’s good planning."

Rich Murdocco, a Stony Brook University adjunct planning professor, questioned adding new development around the train stop, noting proposals to eventually move the station west.

"Does ridership at that station justify its status as a transit-oriented hub? How many Long Islanders and residents of that area are taking the train from Port Jefferson west?" said Murdocco, who writes The Foggiest Idea, an online blog about development. "I do not see the trends pointing to this area being a huge transit hub. That is not to say, though, there should not be development in the area."

Garant and Gitto Group vice president Robert Gitto said they expect future Upper Port residents will include employees of Port Jefferson's two hospitals and other major employers nearby, such as Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

"We’re one train station from Stony Brook University," Garant said. "The demand here is still very strong."

Gitto said the company expects the area to flourish with new housing and stores.

"We see things changing, in our opinion, for the better," he said in an interview. "There’s no reason Upper Port Jefferson can’t be as attractive as lower Port Jefferson is."

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